BUDAPEST- Political tension over the new Hungarian constitution continues in Budapest, capital city of Hungary, and home to many McDaniel students studying at the school’s sister campus abroad.
Controversy arose when the new constitution was drafted by Prime Minister Orbán and his center-right party, which holds two thirds of the seats in the Hungarian Parliament. Over the past few weeks there has been much public debate over issues addressed in the constitution and recent changes Orbán has made to the political system in Hungary. Showing little regard for significant public disapproval, Orbán used his party majority to pass the new Hungarian constitution, which took effect Jan. 1.
Orbán’s new constitution has been met with harsh criticism from the European Union as many of the changes made are considered borderline un-democratic. The most worrisome of these, noted in a BBC News article on Jan. 3, has been the removal of checks and balances set up in 1989, when Communism fell. So far the constitution and newly passed laws include troubling definitions of social issues like marriage and the rights of an unborn child, as well as limits on the judiciary, the media, and measures allowing the government greater control over a new central bank.
Opponents of these new changes fear a return to one-party rule. Francis Fukuyama of The American Interest, warns, “Orbán’s behavior betrays an authoritarian thin skin that would rather ban opposition than engage with it.” The EU is placing pressure upon the nation to prevent this.
In the face of financial crisis however, many Hungarians are beginning to reevaluate the benefits of membership with the EU. Orbán has so far been unable to reverse the country’s financial woes, but the EU has also done little to help alleviate them.
According to the Washington Post, late January, Orbán agreed to the EU’s austerity pact, although the treaty will have no real effect on Hungary until it joins the euro, which is projected by Hungarian politicians to be unlikely until 2020. In addition, the EU has forced Orbán to back off from some of his euro-criticizing rhetoric as he seeks an IMF credit line to bolster his country’s finances and Orbán has said he will make changes to the new central bank policy.
Thus far, Orbán has been successful in his political endeavors. The Fidesz won an overwhelming victory in the 2010 general elections. His manipulation of administrative tools to pass recent laws and measures however, has recently been called into question along with this party’s possible condoning of illegal actions committed by paramilitary groups.
McDaniel sophomore Sam Wilson, studying this semester in Budapest, says she has not personally witnessed or heard much of the recent events, mainly because she doesn’t speak the language. Sam continues, “I do know that a lot of people are angry and frustrated with the situation, but I do not know exact details.”
Political science professor, Christina Leahy, a close correspondent to many professors living in Budapest, says McDaniel students are unlikely to feel any direct effects of the political situation, at least for the time being. If anything, Leahy says, now could be an ideal time for students to study abroad, since everything is currently so cheap due to the country’s failing economy.
Professor Leahy predicts that, “the more repression the government exerts, the more potential there is for resistance, civil demonstrations and disobedience.” If such opposition continues to grow, it will become much harder to escape the notice of McDaniel students living in Budapest.